We're Never Coming Back

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Day 223 - Merry Christmas guys

australia Merry Christmas everyone...

The run up to christmas has been mental. Right, back home I familiarise the final week as being (a) a wind-down at work, (b) lots of christmas parties and (c) a mad rush to buy presents before the shops shut. But christmas when you're backpacking is TOTALLY different. I worked the last couple of days before christmas eve, both hideously late shifts (until 7am) followed by way too many pints with the amazing Georgie from work and rocking up at the hostel drunk af 2pm.

I've bought all my very cheap and rubbish presents and sent them home already. I've not been to any christmas parties because I don't know anyone who can afford to have one. I don't have to travel back home to see my mum, and I don't have to worry about anything. So all of a sudden, totally out of the blue, its christmas eve! I wake up a about 7pm because my body clock is screwed and wander the hostel like a zombie, asking where everyone is. Sam and most of the hostel have gone on a booze cruise around the harbour, so I find out where they are going and head down to Oxford Street to meet them.

And at 6am I slip into my bed, knowing christmas day was right around the corner... well, it was about an hour away. because EVE (from New Zealand) texts me at 7am to say she's arrived at the airport and should be at the hostel any time soon. So bleary eyed, I drag myself out of bed and meet her in reception - its been a long 10 weeks since we saw her last, but its been worth the wait.

And so we drag sam up out of her bed and celebrate christmas day in style - by opening our presents. I got an amazing parcel from my mum - although it had a shed load of Dove products, which means she either has a deal with them or I have a personal hygeine problem. Eve got a LOAD of expensive stuff from her parents (she's such a snob) and Sam got a parcel from Dave (who she loves) and some stuff from me. And amazing Sam also made Eve and I some stockings loaded with wicked presents. It was perfect.

After that, I served champagne to the WHOLE HOSTEL (i'm such a bartender) since it was putting on a champagne breakfast, and I love opening champagne bottles. And then I handed out shortbread christmas trees to everyone, even people on the streets - just to spread some good will. And after that I went to Peach's house, where they were all having christmas dinner, and sat like an idiot at the side because I hadn't paid to be part of the dinner crew. Gutted - it looked well nice as well.

Sam had a christmas dinner to attend to at her Godfather's house, so Eve and I left Sam to go to the beach. there had been reports ALL MONTH that christmas day would be raining, and despite a bit of cloud in the morning, the day was actually SCORCHING. It was great. Bondi Beach was rammed with people - mostly foreigners. Seeing christmas hats in the sea was weird. In fact, the whole thing was weird. It doesn't feel like christmas day AT ALL. All the shops are open, everyone's outdoors. Its like any other day here. Which is nice - its sociable and busy and buzzing. Unlike christmas back home where everyone is indoors watching the queen's speech and moaning about brussel sprouts.

And for christmas dinner, eve and I went to HUNGRY JACKS (a.k.a. Burger King). Not sure why its not been rebranded to be the same as the rest of the world, but yes, I had this for christmas dinner...

...which, I must add, was disgusting. In fact, the whole experience was hideous since I had sand on my hands and nowhere to wash it off. It was RANK. I'm clearly enjoying it in this picture...

And then the rest of the day was spent sleeping (i.e. catching up on lost sleep), eating junk food, drinking vodka and chocolate milk, laughing at drunk people outside the hostel and sitting on the phone to just a handful of people until the phonecard ran dry. It was great. Merry Christmas guys. I hope you all had a good one.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day 215 - Coogee Carols

australia How beautiful is Coogee Beach?

So, last night in Stonewall (the gayest of gay bars in sydney - it has a surfing tarzan statue attached to the wall), I bumped into another friend from home. unprepared. again. this keeps happening. This time its Neel. Neel was mark and angie's mate from Brighton who I never really hung out with but always spoke to when we crossed paths in Boogaloo on a thursday night.

Anyway, Neel and I didn't always see eye to eye, so when Mark suggested I call him up when I'm in sydney, I didn't bother. Not out of spite - just because I don't really know how well we'd get on. But here I am, stood in Stonewall, chatting to my friends, and Neel is right next to me, oblivious that I'm creeping up on him. And we chat and laugh, swap numbers and agree to go for a pint tomorrow night.

So, after sleeping off another hangover, Neel calls me the next day to suggest I come down to this neck of the sydney woods (coogee beach) and watch the Coogee Carols. Frankly, I can't imagine anything worse. I HATE carol services. Hate them. But I was assured it would be fun, and it was a nice day. And christmas is practically around the corner, so I should do something 'christmassy'. So I jump on the 30-minute bus and arrive to see this...

The beach is rammed. People everywhere. A massive stage. Christmas songs playing to the hoards of picnic-eating, santa-hat-wearing, already-in-the-christmas-spirit revellers. Its nice. And the late afternoon sun is perfect.

Now, I don't really know how to describe what actually happens next sufficiently without failing to capture the magic. Basically, the show is almost like the last show of a series of Pop Idol. Every song is a different style - Jingle Bells is Jazz style, Good King Wenceslas is all bluesy. The singers are all local heroes - home and away stars, opera and musical people, news reporters and artists. and they're all from coogee originally. And just 2 songs into the show - this happened...

right. the pretty girl on the microphone announces - to raucous cheers and standing ovations - that SANTA CLAUS is arriving at the show. And sure enough, a huge fire engine - sirens blazing - shoots around the side of the stage and Santa jumps out. What happens next was possible the highlight of my christmas so far. Santa starts a CONGA through the crowds, with hoards of people joining on. Its amazing. kids are screaming. parents are pushing through the crowds to join the line. Neel is pouring vodka while I'm jumping to see through the crowds. Watch the video again. You can just see him at the bottom of the screen. It was amazing. This stuff NEVER happens back home.

Anyway, I'm reeling over the santa conga for ages, so Rachael and I decide to head for a walk around the beach. Its so beautiful guys. Its my favourite beach in sydney. Bondi is old and run down and a bit nasty. and way too big. But coogee is so special. I love it.

Anyway, christmas carols over, I shoot home to change my clothes and have a shower before meeting neel again for a night on the town. First stop - a wicked bar called Central Station which has one of those old-school photo booths which take 4 different photos in a strip. Last time I saw one of these was the Mexican subway about 2 years ago (our photostrip got robbed off us the next day).

And about 4 pubs later we ended up in Arq - sydney's biggest (I think) gay club which was rammed with sweaty, shirtless, gurning gays dancing to boring repetitive house music. In a bid to make the night a bit more fun, neel and I decided to have our photos taken with as many shirtless guys as we could, telling them it was for a magazine.

And we bumped into Matt too. He's one of my new Sydney friend's boyfriend. Me and him spend the rest of the night slumped on the sofas until we all decide to leave at 6am and wander back to the hostel. Not before being shouted at by one of the many crystal meth junkies at Taylor Square. It was pretty special.

And then the hard slog begins. Eddy (my boss) has given me a load of hours at work, so instead of doing the data entry job as well as the bar job, I decide to concentrate on bar work and have the evil, boring day-shifts to get through all week. 4 days of work are GREAT for the bank account, but hideous for my social life. I'm missing all sorts of stuff. But I get the day to myself (I usually start around 5pm), so when I've finally woken up I tend to get out and do stuff. Thursday was spent with Matt (from Arq). We went looking for new, better work shoes and ended up eating food that looks like alien eggs, lazing in the park listening to Mogwai and Sigur Ros and drinking slush puppies in the shade of massive trees.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Day 211 - I've got a JOB!!!

australia Lazy days in Sydney are no more. Lie-in's have been laid to rest. Boardshorts are out - long-sleeved shirts are in. Guys, I did it. I got myself a job.

So, after a weekend of doing nothing but swim in Peach's swimming pool and go on the internet, I decided to be productive on Monday morning. I jumped on the phone to a recruitment agency that specialises in data entry (I'm shit hot on a keyboard, so its probably good for me) and they called me in for a mid-day typing test.

A very pissy 20-something woman stuffed me in a tiny room with a single computer and PAGES of numbers and tells me that I have 5 minutes to type as many numbers as possible. Followed by 5 minutes of typing out a page of text which groans on about the benefits of better communication in the workplace. "we don't even consider applicants with less than 70 words per minute". Well, I'm 72. so the test was successful and almost a bit easy. A quick interview later and they're gonna try and sort me with a job on wednesday.

Which is exactly what they did. I get a call that afternoon to say that my great test scores (I racked up 11,000 keystrokes per hour as well, which is pretty good) have won me a job at a financial data storage company doing some kind of 2 day job for them. Starting on wednesday. So the next day I do a test-run "walk to work" to make sure I'm not late on my big day, and attempt to get a good night's sleep. Because tomorrow I would be getting up at...

6:45am. Right, who the hell designed the 8-4 job. I hate them. They suck. I had to get up at 6:45am, shower, dress (I could wear anything, so I'm in my boardies and hoody), walk to the tube station, wait 13 minutes for a tube, then walk the 20 minute walk to work, then wait in reception for 15 minutes because I'm early. and all before my 8am start. It was HELL. I felt drugged and beaten. I swear I could 'see' the bags under my eyes when I looked down. But I made it.

The company's called Recall, and I've been given the job of finding a box of back-up cassette tapes that belong to JP Morgan from this massive movable filing cabinet...

...taking the tapes out, opening an excel spreadsheet and copying these colourful numbers into the spreadsheet...

Its great. I have about 3000 tapes to copy down in 2 days. I don't have to rush. I can listen to some Bernard Fanning on my cd player. I can take breaks when the air con is too cold. I can take my time and not stress and for my second day, I can turn up a little late if I want. and the whole time I'm earling a whopping $18 an hour (that's like 7.50 quid an hour). My two days fly by and before I know it I'm saying goodbye and walking away with a wedge of cash in new australian bank account.

Now, here's the stinger. This job looks good to keep me busy for as long as I need it. They have other work for me to do, and whilst its gonna be boring, it pays well. But here it comes. Its true - it never rains but it pours. I'm at the tube the station waiting for a tube to go out on thursday night and my phone rings.

- "hi duncan, its eddy here"
- "hi eddy" (thinking "who the hell is eddy")
- "I've been looking at your CV and I think you should come in for a trial at the bar tomorrow night"
- (right. its eddy from the Civic pub opposite my work) "erm, yeah, great. what time?"
- "9pm"
- "great. see you there"
- "great. don't forget your bottle opener"

Totally out of the blue, having sorting my job crisis, I go and bag another one, working in a bar across from my hostel. Its perfect. I can work weekdays in the office, evenings and weekends in the bar. As if I didn't know already, there really is a God.

Anyway, more messy Indie-night madness at the world bar, including (for a change) a lot of dancing. A multitude of sweaty photos ensued.

So yeah, Friday comes. I spend the day scouring the city for some comfortable and somewhat-trendy black/black shoes to wear to work. I bag a pair of hideous black trousers and a super nice black shirt and by 6pm I was ready to start my 'trial'.

9pm came and I left the hostel, walked across the junction, and into the bar. Nervous. Sweating a bit. Its rammed. The bar is heaving, the boss spots me walking in, I lean out my right hand, and before any introductions, guided tours or briefings, I'm logged in on the till and pouring pints for the impatient 20-something crowd.

Its mad. My first pint was awful - I was told very patronisingly that in australia the customers 'like' a big head on their beer. I spilt my first vodka shot. I couldn't find the drinks on the till anywhere. I couldn't understand the ranting australian accents. I lost my bidget bottle opener several times. And generally I sweated through 7 hours of hard labour before Eddy (the boss) pulled me aside and told me I had done a good job and he'd rota me in for more shifts. And I left the place buzzing.

Out of all the guys at work, I seemed to get on the best with one guys called Matt. He's SO COOL. you know those people you meet and they just ooze coolness. I love him. every second that the two of us weren't serving, he was whispering jokes in my ear, pointing out slutty girls who were way too wasted, putting lumps of ice in my hand, or asking customers if they "want fries with that". He's so funny. And we totally have the same taste in music - so much so that he invites me down to the Phoenix tonight for 'his' night - Bandits. Which is wicked, because I went there a couple of weeks back after the Unfair gig. So I agree to head down after my shift, and its amazing. He introduces me to his beautiful girlfriend, sarah, and his other mates. I get in free. I dance until 6am then stumble home.

Most of saturday was spent sleeping, and by 10:30pm I was ready for shift number 2 at the Civic. Tonight its "Booty Bar" which means tonnes of RnB, tonnes of lads buying "pink pussy" shooters, tonnes of girls seriously under-dressed and underage, and a bucket load of tips for happy bartender dunc. It was great. Still have a few nervous moments where everything falls apart or Eddy shouts down the back of my neck. But apart from that, its great. And when I clear out of the bar at 2:30am I head up to Oxford Street to meet the guys in Stonewall for a few post-work drinks.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Day 205 - Moonlight Cinema

australia How quintessentially Sydney...

If you wanna see the real Sydney, you need a guide. And that's exactly what I've got - in the form of Suzi (you know suzi - the annoying aussie I met in Peru and has been clinging onto me in all but three countries that I've visited). I love her. And she has some bright ideas. One of them being to go and see Pedro Almodovar's latest flick 'Volver' at the 'Moonlight cinema' - Sydney's famous open air picnic-then-film night.

I meet Suzi in town at 5ish and we hop on a bus with Minnie and Rachel (I met Minnie in south america too - how small is this world?). First stop - picnic supplies from one of my favourite places in Sydney - Harris Farm Fruit Market in Bondi. Besides taking stupid photos of me with my head in the fruit, eating cherries without paying for them and grossing myself out at the weird dips they have here, we stocked up on fruit and headed to the park.

Its proper magical here. There's cute trees everywhere, and the screen overlooks the huge Centennial Park. And its dusky. And everyone is eating picnics and laughing and drinking screw-cap wine. There's hampers everywhere. And huge beanbags to rent for a more comfortable experience (if you go, get one. trust me). And as the sun goes down, the adverts start and the film swings into action.

Volver is great. No - its amazing. Of course I'm gonna say that - its spanish, it has penelope cruz in it (I love her), and its classic Almodovar. It has colour, depth, humour, murder and a lashing of sex. I love his stuff - right from the first 2 minutes you're winded by brutally disturbing subjects which Almodovar brushes over as if they were never taboo. He even throws in a gratuitous overhead tit-shot of Penelope's cleavage as she's doing the washing up - just for good measure. Favourite quote - 'we should wash our dirty linen at home'. Too true. If you see it in Blockbuster - get it. You'll only regret it if you're an idiot. trust me.

Anyway, the film was beautiful. The setting was beautiful. And if it wasn't for the bat that shat on me during the second half and the horrendously uncomfortable rock-like soil I was lying on, it would have been the most perfect date I'd ever been on. with 3 girls. killer.

That done, I walked Minnie home through Kings Cross - seedy as hell, and renowned for being the rough part of sydney, but Minnie assures me that she has walked through Kings Cross unchallenged for her whole life, and doesn't know one person who's ever had any problems. Can we say that about our capital city? No way.

And the next few days are pretty much par-for-the-course as far as fun goes. Usual routine - Indie night at the world bar on a thursday...

saturday night at the green park with Malcolm Macbeth (brother to one of my favourite londeners - laura macbeth)...

saturdays we always go to the beach - even though the weather here is SO RUBBISH at the moment. ok - so its never really bad. but I thought it would be sunny every day. Its kinda overcast at least half of the week - which is half more than it should be for this time of year. Everyone here says its rubbish - and we've just heard that its expected to rain over christmas. RUBBISH! I hate this damn country. I got a better tan in the Bolivian winter...

And the saturday nights everyone except me goes to The Gaff. I've avoided it avidly for the last few weeks because it looks horrible, but this week I went. and its SO GRIM. Its SO SO GRIM. seruiously. It has strippers dancing on the bar. It has free beer for one hour and people 10-deep spilling their pints over my shoes. It has people pissing against the walls in the toilets and routy boys barging me out the way to watch the football. Its SO GRIM. And there's Sam in the corner, LOVING IT. Did I tell you Sam has turned into a total townie rotter? No? Well, she is. I'm surprised she's not wearing Kappa to the cheapo supermarket down the road. We still love her though. despite her rotten townie edge.

Sydney is great. It is. But I'm spending too much money, earning nothing, and not doing the stuff that makes me really happy. I need more Moonlight cinema, more Unfair gigs, more stuff that I care about. So I'm making a decision. From today onwards I'm gonna be more proactive. Duncan - stop being so rubbish, and get out there and do stuff.

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